What is It?
Cristiano Ronaldo is a rather divisive person; folk either love or hate the guy. But one aspect of “CR7” that most can agree on is that he has a rather enviable body. Everyone has seen the photos of his chiselled torso when he rips his shirt off in goal celebration, or where he’s stripped down to his underwear for whatever fashion brand he’s currently pedalling.
So when Cristiano Ronaldo puts his name to promoting “revolutionary training gear”, it’s hard not to at least be a little intrigued. The mobile gym is that product. It’s based around “electrical muscle stimulation”, a principle that’s been around from the days of Slendertone’s devices.
EMS technology initially came about as a means to stave off muscle atrophy in spinal injury sufferers, and has also been used for muscle re-education for those having trouble with muscle contraction – stroke sufferers, for example. So it has a solid scientific background.
Essentially, electrical current is pushed through the muscle, causing a contraction, which automates the need to knock out endless reps.
Having tested the kit for more than two months now, I can at least say that the system works from a strength and conditioning perspective. I made genuine strength gains that left the sceptic in me surprised.
But those looking for a shortcut to a six-pack might be disappointed to hear that the mobile gym isn’t a magic-bullet solution. You’re still going to need to put in some hard graft – and fix your diet – if you want those rippling abdominals you’ve always dreamed about. Abs really are made in the kitchen.
Design and Setup
The smart fitness kits are available as either the Abs Fit (GHs70), which is worn on your abdominal muscles, or the Body Fit, which can be worn on your arms, legs or waist. The Body Fit is available as a single (Ghs100) or twin-pack (currently unavailable), allowing you to work two areas at once. A combo pack includes both the Abs Fit and Body Fit.
The Abs Fit device is designed to match the shape of your abdominals, with the intensity control unit at the centre of the device. The Body Fit is meant to wrap around your limbs or waist. Both devices are made from a soft, flexible rubber that contours to your body.
They have a slim design, which means that you could theoretically wear them under clothing without anyone noticing – at least until you turn them on, but more on this later.
The system is far more elegant than EMS systems that have separate control units connected to individual pads through cables, although with those you can be more specific with individual pad placement.
Both devices require you to attach conductive gel pads to the rear electrodes, and one set is included with each of the Abs Fit and Body Fit kits. The gels help to carry the electrical current into your body, but are an ongoing cost you’ll need to keep in mind as they need replacing after around 30 uses.
The Abs Fit uses six gel pads and the Body Fit uses two, and these are available as complete packs.
The kit is small enough to take with you on trips where you know you’re unlikely to have time to train, which is handy for those who get anxious about not hitting the gym.
Once you’ve applied the gel pads, simply insert the battery into the main control unit. You then line up the device with the corresponding muscle group. When the gel pads are fresh, they have a decent amount of stickiness to them, so you’ll find that the kit stays in position well. After a few uses the adhesion deteriorates, however, they can be cleaned. Visit youtube to watch video on how to clean yours
With everything in place, you turn the kit on by holding the “power” button on the control unit. You then have 15 levels of intensity, which you can dial up or down using the controls. Holding the “-” button will turn the unit off if you want to finish early; otherwise, a session takes about 20 minutes.
Electrical Muscle Stimulation
They advise that you start out on a low level and then gradually increase the intensity each time you use the device. I, too, would recommend taking this approach since it allows you to apply some linear progression as your muscles adapt to the training stimulus.
A single session runs in a distinct pattern, gradually ramping up with short bursts of current interspersed with longer durations and pulsations. This means your muscles experience different types of contractions during a session and some short rest periods too.
Speak to any bodybuilder or weight-trainer and you’ll probably hear the phrase “time under tension”, and it’s this that causes the muscle breakdown and corresponding repair that leads to growth.
The varied current, which is specifically delivered at 20Hz, is designed to maximise this time under tension for the aim of muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth), which requires a specific level and type of stimulation.
When it comes to using the kits, the actual training experience between the Abs Fit and the Body Fit devices differs quite drastically, so I’ll describe each separately.
The Abs Fit is definitely the more comfortable of the two. The feeling of a contraction is similar to what you’d experience doing crunches. While the contraction is definitely something you feel, you’re still largely able to go about your day with it on and it’s still relatively discrete. I’d be able to watch TV or browse the internet, allowing me to multi-task without issue.
I initially started out on an intensity of level 8, but I’m now using it on 15 – the top-most level – and that feels like a limitation. The highest level doesn’t feel that intense after a few sessions, so a few extra levels would have been welcome.
Manufacturers advise that you shouldn’t use the device more than once per day, so it’s difficult to see how you can apply any additional progression if you can’t add more time to the equation.
The Body Fit is a whole different experience, however, especially when worn on your arms. Even on a relatively low level, such as 5, the contraction is so strong that you involuntarily flex your arms, which in fairness is what you want for muscle stimulation.
The intensity is definitely a lot stronger when worn across your biceps compared to elsewhere, however. When worn across my quadriceps (the large muscle on the outside of your thighs), I was able to use a higher intensity and it didn’t result in my legs dangerously kicking out at anything nearby, nor did I experience the same level of discomfort.
The Body Fit is also designed to be worn on your waist, but I rarely tried this – in my opinion, it’s a fruitless endeavour. There isn’t much in the way of muscle across your waist, so there’s little reason to wear it here, plus you can’t spot-reduce fat for those looking to slim their waist down.
Without having hit the upper limit of training intensity, the Body Fit has the potential for more progress – at least in my case – but you’ll need to be able to cope with the discomfort. “No pain, no gain”, as the saying goes.
Does it work?
I largely used only the Abs Fit device consistently enough to draw conclusions, merely because it was the least intrusive to my day. The Body Fit is quite a comfortable experience when used on your biceps, and I only used it on my legs intermittently. I intend to continue using it and so will update with further findings around the Body Fit.
My background is in powerlifting, so the majority of my observation with regards to the Abs Fit, beyond the typical “before and after” shots, were based on the impact to my strength training. I do a lot of squats and deadlifts, and as such I’d consider my core to be pretty strong already.
As a quick primer, the actual physiological purpose of your abdominal muscles is to support your spine. Without a strong core, you’d literally snap in half if your spine is loaded with a heavy barbell during a squat, or if you attempt to deadlift a heavy weight from the floor. It has load applied during powerlifting, which leads to an increase in strength.
That’s not to say that dedicated core training isn’t required alongside compound exercises such as the squat, however. I’ve typically done hanging leg raises and the occasional bicycle crunch as accessory work. During the period of testing the Sixpad, I ceased all dedicated core training, which was more than welcome as I don’t particularly enjoy it.
I’ve been powerlifting for long enough that I can say with a great degree of confidence that my core actually became stronger after using the Smart fitness kits. As a frame of reference, my deadlift went from 185kg to 195kg, while my bodyweight maintained at 62kg.
Visible abdominal muscles are a result of having a low body fat percentage – and that’s why people often say “abs are made in the kitchen”. You can have well-developed abdominal muscles but that will all be for naught if you have a layer of fat covering them. A degree of genetics plays a role here as well, which is why everyone seemingly has that friend who never trains but has an enviable six-pack.
Here are some before and after photos. The photos admittedly don’t do the best job of showing progress. Also keep in mind that having a good six-pack is 90% flattering lighting, which intentionally wasn’t the case with these photos.
And if you need proof that good lighting (and an awesome backdrop) can give you a better six-pack:
But therein lies the potential problem for those looking towards the kits as an instant fix. In isolation, it isn’t going to give you a miraculous six-pack; you’re still going to need to put in the hard work both in terms of training and diet. For me, the kit is better thought of as a training aid.
Battery Life and Charging
The kit uses a standard AAA battery, which is good for around 20 uses.Changing the battery is easy: simply remove the cover on the back of the control unit and then swap them out.
Should I buy this?
If viewed as a supplementary tool in your training arsenal, the Smart fitness kit achieves its aim. If you’re looking at an easy way to get ripped without putting any effort it, obviously, would take time